Potentialities and limits of internet health communication in chronic care: Results from a qualitative study

Maria Caiata Zufferey, Peter J. Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article explores people's use of the interactive sections of a patient-centred website called Oneself, specifically designed to provide information and support for enhancing the self-management of chronic low back pain. Oneself includes several synchronous and asynchronous tools to interact with health professionals and lay people. The analysis was performed quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively, we analysed the log files of 276 users who logged on from January 2007 to November 2007. Qualitatively, we conducted semi-structured interviews with a convenient sample of 18 Oneself users. Results confirm the perceived utility of user-centred interactive websites monitored by health professionals as a venue for self-management education among individuals with chronic illness. However, they also suggest that to achieve their full potential, these interactive services have to be characterized by several features, such as credibility, multimediality, usability and dynamism, and have to be designed taking into account the type and the stage of the illness, as well as the socio-demographic characteristics of the patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the National Research Programme NRP 53 ‘‘Musculoskeletal Health · Chronic Pain’’ of the Swiss National Science Foundation for financial support of this study (Project 405340·104841/1), as well as the Lega Ticinese per la Lotta contro il Reumatismo, which has enabled its feasibility.


  • Chronic low back pain
  • Health communication
  • Internet
  • Interpretation
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-management
  • Tailoring


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